Anthony Cody taught for many years in the Oakland public schools. We co-founded the Network for Public Education in 2012. His blog is called “Living in Dialogue.”

He writes:

Who is Allowed to be Selfish?

Isn’t it a bit strange – our capitalist economy is built on the glorious profit motive. The wealthy are expected to be selfish – they are rewarded for their ability to make more and more, and expected to avoid taxes, military service, and anything else that is unpleasant or risky. But only some people are allowed to be selfish.

Trump can insist that anyone who meets with him be tested. But he demands schools reopen, which means teachers will meet in closed rooms with as many as 160 students a day. Teachers must not put their own health above the needs of their students and the economy that requires they be in school six or seven hours a day.

It is unfortunate that we do not have funds to pay for nurses, counselors or librarians in our schools. But most wealthy people don’t send their children to public schools anyway. They get to make a different choice. But some of us have fewer choices. It pretty much falls along economic lines. Meat workers are essential workers — they have been required to show up and make sure we all have hamburgers. Waiters, restaurant workers, likewise, they can mask up and get back to work. Teachers find themselves in this same boat; they have no permission to worry about their health or that of their families.

So Disney will have their workers open their parks again. School boards and legislators meeting on Zoom will decide to send teachers back to reopen their schools when social distancing is impossible.
If you are a worker, your reluctance to work, your desire to protect your family and community from illness or death is SELFISH. And you, as a worker, must be selfless and willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of the economy. And don’t even mention that if you are Black, Indigenous or Latino, your chances for getting the virus is greater, and your outcomes likely to be worse.

And the billionaires get tax breaks and government bailouts, and their stock holdings gain value, and that is “the economy getting back on track.” Because the wealthy have the ultimate privilege – the right to be selfish. And working people get a sort of upside down socialism, where they are required to serve the common interests of society, and not allowed to protect even their own health.